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The MHS Review 398 VOL. 12, NO.2 • 1988

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David M. Greene


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Yesterday I peeked in on the Macy Thanksgiving parade via the Tube. Just peeked, but beat a hasty retreat when Willard Scott said "How sweet it is!" for the 34th time. Actually I saw no parade at all. What I saw was Joel Grey and a hippo or an alligator doing an endless number from Cabaret in the middle of Broadway. There was an audience who, from my van­tage point, seemed bored and distracted. Their attitude made me begin to wonder: Is the time rapidly approaching when we shall be so saturated with "entertainment" that it will require running a baby through a meat grinder to get our attention?

My mother was a country girl. She had no phonograph, no radio, no TV, no movies, and her mode of transportation up to 1928 was a horse and buggy. Between her birth in 1885 and her move to the city in 1937, the big events in her life, in terms of entertainment, were a concert by the New York Philharmonic (in the days of Josef Stransky) and the parade welcoming Admiral Dewey back from the Spanish­American War. I assume that she had never heard more than one symphony--once!

I began listening to the radio at the age of 14, and may have heard a few sym­phonies before I bought my first one on records. It was, almost inevitably, Beethoven's Fifth. It remained the only symphony I knew well until I acquired Berlioz' Fantastique three years later. I not only played it almost daily, I went to a music store and got a piano score. It was a thoroughly practical affair by Percy Goetschius. It was designed not for con­cert performance but to acquaint the in­terested listener (whose opportunities to hear the orchestral version were almost certainly limited) with the work and what made it tick. In my day, with the records at hand, it was a godsend.

Learning the masterpieces from piano scores was commonplace in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and making up such scores was a kind of industry. It will pro­bably come, then, as no surprise to learn that a musician of Liszt's abilities turned out such things by the dozen. They include all nine Beethoven Symphonies, but odd­ly no others of that genre save his own two program symphonies and the two first of that ilk by his great friend Berlioz.

Alphabetically heading the catalog of Liszt's piano scores we find "Allegri­-Mozart: Evocation a la Chapelle Sixtine" (Evocation of the Sistine Chapel). Writing the Grand Duke of Weimar, his patron, in 1862, Liszt explains what he was trying to depict. The child Mozart had heard there the famous Allegri Miserere, whose use was strictly confined to the chapel, and had written it down from memory. Standing one day in the Chapel, Liszt had had a vi­sion of Mozart and Allegri, and, towering over them, the shadow of Beethoven, whose music (the Third and Seventh Sym­phonies, the "Moonlight" Sonata), show­ed the impress of Allegri's piece.

When Liszt was 11 Beethoven had bestowed a consecratory kiss on him--and surely Liszt knew that Mozart had blessed the young Beethoven. Liszt saw himself a man with a mission. However successful Beethoven had been in Vienna, musical reputations traveled very slowly in those days. Even where Beethoven symphonies were performed (Paris, London) all sorts of liberties were taken with them. It was Liszt's wish not only to get the music into other people's hands, but to proselytize for it by playing it himself in his concerts, where he had the appeal of the modern rock "star."

Over the past couple of decades one and another of these scores has made its way to records. (I believe that Glenn Gould's of the Fifth was the first.) Recently Cyprien Katsaris has undertaken to do the whole canon. Mr. Katsaris, now in his middle 30s, was born in Marseilles of Cypriot descent, spent his childhood in what used to be French Equatorial Africa (Cameroon), and studied at the Paris Conservatory with Aline van Barentzen and Monique de la Bruchollerie--names familiar to record col­lectors. He has won several international competitions, and is acclaimed both as per­former and composer. When I visited our local record shop a couple of days ago, the new-release CD bins were jam-packed with Katsaris discs of piano works of all kinds. When a performer reaches that estate in Allentown, Pa., he has arrived!

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